March 20, 2004
By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) - Houston's defense won out over Wisconsin-Green Bay's experience.
Chandi Jones scored 28 points and ninth-ranked Houston defeated the Phoenix 62-47 Saturday night to win a first-round NCAA tournament game for the first time.
"That's awesome," Houston coach Joe Curl said. "The biggest stat we wanted to see was turn 27-3 into 28-3."
The third-seeded Lady Cougars (28-3) advanced in just their third-ever NCAA tourney appearance and first in 12 years. They've won 22 of their last 23 games, including a school-record 13 in a row.
Houston will face the winner of the Colorado-UC Santa Barbara game Monday in the second round of the East Regional.
The 14th-seeded Phoenix (23-8) were playing in their third straight NCAA tourney, having won a first-round game last year for the first time. But they couldn't counter the scoring-rebounding punch of Jones and Sancho Lyttle.
"We did a great job of doing everything in that game except putting the ball in the basket," Phoenix coach Kevin Borseth said. "Some of the shots we took were out of rhythm. If you put those in the basket, things look different."
Lyttle added seven points and 10 rebounds after playing just seven minutes in the first half when she picked up two quick fouls. Nicole Oliver scored 11 points.
"I was trying to tell my other post players, `Just crash the boards and block out,"' Lyttle said. "I tried to redeem myself in the second half."
Nicole Soulis led Wisconsin-Green Bay with 13 points and Amy Fieck grabbed 11 rebounds. Abby Scharlow was held to eight - half her average.
Guard Daphne Andre celebrates their victory over Wisconsin-Green Bay after the game.
"We had a lot of opportunities, a lot of missed shots," said Scharlow, who was 0-of-5 from 3-point range. "I definitely forced a few shots and at the end we definitely forced a lot."
The Phoenix had won 17 of their previous 19 games and four in a row after playing more than half the season with just eight healthy players. Tiffany Mor and Natalie Yudt - the only seniors on the roster - were lost to left knee injuries.
Jones and the rest of the Lady Cougars started slowly. They didn't take their first double-digit lead of the game until Jones' basket made it 48-37 with 8:15 remaining.
Wisconsin-Green Bay tied the game at 27 early in the second half and then Scharlow scored consecutive baskets to get the Phoenix to 41-36.
Then Jones and Lyttle combined to score 14 straight points and give Houston a 55-43 lead with 3:37 remaining.
"We knew she was going to get points," Borseth said. "Our job was to shut down Lyttle. Jones is so quick. She goes by you and all you can see are the taillights."
Houston shot 37 percent (24-of-64) from the floor, while Wisconsin-Green Bay was held to 29 percent (18-of-63) in a game that featured a combined 20 turnovers.
"I have the type of mind-set that I need to do a little bit more in the second half," Jones said.
The Phoenix led 27-25 at the break after scoring the final 10 points. Houston struggled through poor shooting stretches and didn't score at all over the final 3:24 after blowing all of its nine-point lead.
"We got a little bit lax and they attacked," Curl said. "At times, we'll take a little two minutes off and you can't do that in this field, but we survived it."
Both teams got off to shaky starts. The Lady Cougars shot 6-of-16 from the floor, while the Phoenix was 2-of-13 with seven turnovers in the first nine minutes.